Terry O’Brien, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s artistic director — fresh from auditioning interns in Minnesota, but stuck in the airport thanks to a wintry blast in the East — called to deliver some news: The third play in the festival’s 24th season will be “The Bomb-itty of Errors,” a hip-hop version of “The Comedy of Errors.”
It will be directed by HVSF education director Christopher V. Edwards, inset, left, with Joe Hernandez-Kolski in a 2002 production of the play. (You can watch the “Bomb-itty” prologue here.)
“Bomb-itty” joins “Troilus and Cressida” (which O’Brien will direct) and “The Taming of the Shrew,” to be directed by HVSF regular Kurt Rhoads.
“Bomb-itty” sounds a good deal like “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” the crowd-pleaser that has had a slot in the festival the past two seasons. Last summer, it featured the amazing Jason O’Connell and the two men O’Brien has asked to direct this summer: Edwards and Rhoads. “Abridged” also had a hip-hop section, as I recall.
This one is all hip-hop, all the time, with a DJ and four actors playing all the roles. They tell the whole story, but with hip-hop and beat-boxing.
I asked Terry if the hip-hop gets old after a while.
“No. The script is really sharp and it moves so fast. I really keeps you on your toes.”
Abridged, with its madcap approach that O’Brien calls “Shakespeare with training wheels, for people who are a little afraid of Shakespeare,” drew a younger audience to the tent at Boscobel overlooking the Hudson Highlands. And O’Brien thinks “Bomb-itty” will do the same.
“It’s actually for a really broad audience,” O’Brien says. “Chris was in it in St. Petersburg, Fla., and they played to a range of ages from 5 to 90. And every night, he says, people in their 80’s would come back, excited about having seen it, as would the kids.”
“Shrew” treads much the same ground as last season’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” with proud lead characters who trade barb for barb, and sometimes flower pot for flower pot.
HVSF has never performed “Troilus and Cressida.” Set in the Trojan War, it isn’t a pure tragedy, O’Brien explains, because “the lovers don’t die.”
Auditions are in early March and O’Brien hopes to see the usual suspects — the stable of actors audiences have grown to love — and to add some new faces. With the tight run-up to opening, HVSF opens all three shows three weeks in a row, Rhoads and Edwards will be lost to the acting company, opening two slots for new actors.
While grants and corporate donations are off, subscribers and the board really stepped up to help the festival weather the financial storm. “We approach this year with more confidence than we did last season,” he says. “We’re not going to go out and buy a fleet of automobiles anytime soon, but things are looking better than last year.”
Tickets for the 2010 season don’t go on sale until April, but gift certificates are on sale at the company’s Web site: www.hvshakespeare.org. The festival is held at the Boscobel Restoration on Route 9D in Garrison.
O’Brien says the recent trend of the past couple of years, of presenting three rotating works a summer, will continue. Last summer, it was “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Pericles” and the crowd-pleasing romp “(Abridged).”
“We do six nights a week now, so two shows isn’t really enough,” he says. “Doing three shows in rotation is great for our audience because people come there, they stay in a bed and breakfast and see a couple of shows. And it also keeps the actors on their toes; they like the variety as well.
“The way it worked last year was that each play would play two nights a week, so everybody had two nights off because everybody was only in two out of the three shows. It keeps actors fresh, but it also keeps them interested.”
Photo by Caroline Lewis and Bomb-itty International, Inc: Chris Edwards and Joe Hernandez-Kolski, St. Petersburg, Fla., 2002.